If you have noticed a bad odor escaping when you open the lid of your chest freezer, the culprit is likely some food that has spoiled. This can happen if you have experienced a power outage and the food reached temperatures that were unsafe, or it can happen if the food has been in the freezer for too long.
Getting rid of a bad smell in a chest freezer can be done in a number of ways, and your level of success will likely come down to how long the smell has been penetrating the interior of the freezer. If the smell has seeped into the plastic walls of the freezer, it may not be possible to entirely eliminate the odor.
Ways to remove bad odors from chest freezers include defrosting the freezer and cleaning the inside with a disinfectant, setting a tray of baking soda or cat litter in the freezer to absorb the bad smells, or stuffing the freezer with rolled newspapers.
Here we take a more in-depth look into the best ways to get rid of smells from a chest freezer.
Best Ways to Eliminate Chest Freezer Odor
Before you start the process of getting rid of the smell from your freezer, you first need to identify and remove the cause of the smell. If the smell is coming from food that has gone bad, you need to dispose of the food immediately.
If you’re not sure where the smell is coming from, you may need to go through each item in the freezer and hold it up to smell it so you can figure out the culprit.
Defrost and sanitize
If the odor in your chest freezer is severe, then your best chance at removing it is to completely empty the freezer and give it a thorough clean. If the freezer has a frost-free design feature then there won’t be any ice build-up on the walls of the freezer, so in this case you don’t need to defrost the appliance, and can get right to cleaning it.
If your freezer is not frost-free, you will know by the presence of ice buildup on the walls of the chest freezer. In this case, you’ll need to disconnect the freezer from power and completely defrost it before you can clean it. You will likely end up with a puddle at the bottom of your chest freezer after it has been defrosted, and this will need to be mopped up.
Once the interior of the freezer is clear and dry, you can get started on cleaning it. Remove any racks and clean this with a sanitizer in the sink, or run them through a hot wash in the dishwasher. Clean the interior walls and the floor of the chest freezer with a sanitizing spray, such as a disinfectant that contains bleach.
If you would prefer to use a natural cleaner, use a vinegar spray and a cloth dipped in baking soda. After cleaning, leave the lid of the chest freezer open so the air can circulate, then plug it back in and begin using it again.
If you aren’t able to empty your freezer of all the food it contains to clean the interior, an odor absorber is a good alternative. These are best for mild to moderate bad odors but in some cases, they can remove severe smells. Natural odor absorbers include baking soda and coffee grounds.
Loosely pour your baking soda or ground coffee into a medium-sized dish or tray, and set the tray inside the chest freezer in a spot that is not too cramped. Close the lid of the chest freezer and let the odor absorbers work their magic. Within a day or two, the baking soda or ground coffee will have absorbed the bad odors, and the smell should be gone.
If a slight bad odor still remains, dispose of the baking soda or coffee grounds and replace them with a fresh tray full. Another odor absorber that can work well is cat litter, which is of course designed to eliminate the smells associated with cats using the toilet. If you have a cat, try a dish of cat litter in your chest freezer to remove the smells.
You could instead use a tray of activated charcoal which does a good job of absorbing bad odors, or there are a number of odor-absorbing sachets you can buy which are specifically designed to be used in smelly freezers and refrigerators or musty closets. Odor absorbers work best in an empty freezer that is turned on, but they can have success in a full freezer.
If the smell in your freezer has not been present for very long, then simply airing out the freezer might be enough to get rid of the smell. After removing the cause of the odor, leave the lid of the freezer open so that the bad odor can escape, and fresh air can ventilate the interior of the appliance.
If you have food being kept in the freezer, only open the lid for 30 minutes at a time so that the food inside does not defrost. Alternatively, empty the freezer and leave the lid open for a few days to clear out the odor.
Natural air freshener
If you have removed the cause of the odor and cleaned the inside of the freezer, but there is still a slight whiff escaping when you open the lid, then you could try an air freshener. This will help to cover any lingering smells and give your freezer a pleasant aroma. The vanilla extract works well because it is an agreeable smell that isn’t too overpowering, and of course, it’s edible so it can’t harm your food in any way. Apply a few drops of vanilla on a cotton ball and leave this inside your chest freezer.
Within a few hours, the smell should be delightful instead of disgusting. The best thing about using this method is its ease. You don’t need to defrost the freezer or empty the freezer and find another home for your frozen foods. You could also look at using other scents on the cotton ball if you don’t like vanilla, or if you want to use what you already have in your pantry. Almond essence and coffee essence are good alternative options.
Removing Persistent Smells from the Chest Freezer
If you have tried everything and the odor in the freezer still persists, then it is likely the odor has permeated into the fabric of the freezer. In this case, your options are to get the appliance professionaly serviced, to dispose of the freezer and buy a replacement, or to put up with the smell.
A professional freezer engineer should be able to eliminate the bad smells from within the walls of the chest freezer, but the cost of this may not be worth it if your freezer is old, and buying a new freezer instead may be preferable. It’s important for the inside of your chest freezer to be clean, since this is where you store food, so a lingering smell is not a good sign.